(The original Chinese version of this article is written by Mr. Hsiang-Yang Lu and published on MakerPRO)
In February 2012, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released its first version of Raspberry Pi, and 3 years later, in 2015, they revealed Raspberry Pi 2. Earlier this year, the foundation released Raspberry Pi 3, while continuing to keep its price below $35 USD. Not long after, they introduced Raspberry Pi A+ and Raspberry Pi Zero, which are both cheaper than Raspberry Pi 3, to the market.
To most makers, unless they are picky about the price, size and power consumption of development boards, they will choose Raspberry Pi for its comprehensive features. Even if they won’t use all the functions, they can always save it for other development purposes in the future. However, with the release of Raspberry Pi 3, many makers begin to wonder which one should they choose: Raspberry Pi 2 or Raspberry Pi 3?
Although the foundation promised to keep selling older versions of Raspberry Pi, mainly for the sake of supporting certain industries need for replacing their broken Raspberry Pi, but it seems inevitable that certain versions will gradually be replaced by newer versions. However, for now, makers still need to determine which version of Raspberry Pi is better. We have come up with four different perspectives below to help you make better decisions:
1. Operating System
Some versions of Raspberry Pi’s operating systems are only compatible with Raspberry Pi 2 or newer versions of Raspberry Pi. One of such example is Windows 10 IoT Core. Raspberry Pi 3 enhances the entire software system to 64 bit, but the officially Raspbain operating system has not been upgraded to 64 bit, as the foundation plans to release it a few months later. If this is the case for the official operating system, upgrades in other supporting OS will most likely take even longer. So if you are not urgently in need of a 64-bit environment, there is no need to use Raspberry Pi 3. However, it is true that when using Raspberry Pi 3 with a 32-bit environment, users can achieve an accelerating effect.
Some makers will use Raspberry Pi’s GPIO to control different kinds of electronic applications, and Raspberry Pi 3 still maintain the same 40-pin GPIO like the earlier versions, so there is not too much difference between choosing Raspberry Pi 2 and Raspberry Pi 3. However, makers can choose Raspberry Pi 3 if their situation is similar to the following scenario. If they were using Python to control GPIO, then choosing Raspberry Pi 3 could offer them faster and more accurate application control, because Raspberry Pi 3’s calculation capacity can go up to 344.4kHz.
3. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
For makers who have been thinking about connecting to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth through Raspberry Pi, they can choose Raspberry Pi 3 because if they buy older versions of Raspberry Pi, they need to buy an extra USB interface for the Wi-Fi dongle in order to enable the Raspberry Pi to connect to Wi-Fi. The same goes with Bluetooth connection. Since most of the dongles on the market make offering drivers for Windows PC their priority, they may not be compatible with Raspberry Pi. Therefore, using Raspberry Pi 3 will help them to get rid of the risks.
4. Power consumption and heat generation
Although Raspberry Pi 3 offers several benefits such as the 64-bit environment, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection, but it also consumes more power and generates more heat. Existing data shows that Raspberry Pi 3 consumes 62% more energy than Raspberry Pi 2 when it is not in use, and when it is in use, it consumes 87% more energy than Raspberry Pi 2. On top of that, Raspberry Pi 3’s chips also have the issue of overheating, so makers may have to add a fan or a heat sink.
As you can see, Raspberry Pi 3 is not completely problem free, because if the adapter can’t offer enough power, or if the GPIO on Raspberry Pi needs more power, then makers may have to change to adapters that can offer more power. Additionally, even though Raspberry Pi 3 is not too different from older versions of Raspberry Pi in terms of its specification, and there are several kinds of cases for Raspberry Pi 3, but whether these cases are able to effectively radiate heat is still a big question.
However, if you have never bought any Raspberry Pi accessories or design any applications with Raspberry Pi, then it might be good for you to consider choosing Raspberry Pi 3.